The Danger Lingers On: Asbestos Retains Toxicity Despite the Passage of Time

According to a recent study, asbestos’ toxic nature does not wane or vanish with the passage of time. If someone was exposed to asbestos three or four decades ago, the dangerous effects of are still present and can cause the formation of malignant mesothelioma tumors at any time. Although this was discovered long ago, the study marks the first study to report on the findings.

The study, carried out by Dr. Alison Reid of the School of Public Health, Curtin University in Western Australia, and six researchers from Australia and Italy, shows that even after nearly a half century passes following the initial exposure to asbestos fibers, the risk of developing pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma does not diminish.

The study followed 862 mesothelioma cases from a pool of over 22,000 people who were exposed to asbestos. Six groups of participants were made up of workers exposed on the job, and two groups were comprised of stay-at-home spouses who were exposed to asbestos by other means. It not only takes into account exposure that took place in job sites contaminated by asbestos, it also examines the effect of second-hand exposure.

Per the report, occupational exposure primarily affected workers at various facilities in Australia and Italy, including asbestos material processing plants, an asbestos mine, an amosite factory, and an asbestos mill. In addition, occupational exposure took place during the transportation of refined asbestos products by train and via asbestos presence in the environment.

Second-hand exposure was measured in a study of asbestos workers’ spouses who were not employed outside the home. Per the various studies used by Reid and the report’s co-authors, 54% of peritoneal mesothelioma cases (which affect the lower abdomen) and 44% of pleural mesothelioma cases were diagnosed over 40 years after the patients’ initial exposure to asbestos.

There were several cases of mesothelioma diagnoses that took place 50 years after the initial exposure. For pleural mesothelioma cases, the percentage of cases diagnosed during the time frame was 13.3%. For peritoneal mesothelioma patients who received diagnoses half a century after the asbestos exposure, the percentages were higher at 23.2%.

Though the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases is well-documented, “Mesothelioma Risk After 40 Years Since  First Exposure to Asbestos” is the first report stating that even the passage of 45 or more years does not reduce the incidence of malignant mesothelioma in people exposed to asbestos.

In the United States, where asbestos was considered an essential “wonder product” in several industries for over 100 years, close to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed every year. Statistics show that the number of average cases remain steady even though the use of asbestos in the U.S. has been seriously reduced over the past 30 years.

Considering that asbestos products have been replaced by substitutes, conventional wisdom suggests that the incidence of mesothelioma in the U.S. would diminish over time. Yet, since asbestos was used in construction and industry in large quantities as late as the 1970s, the average number of new mesothelioma cases in the U.S. has not decreased. Instead, it holds steady at a rate of 3,000 a year.

Additionally, the presence of asbestos in buildings and homes built in the 20th Century that have not undergone abatement procedures makes it certain that people will continue to be exposed in the years to come.

According to the study, even though the increased rate of mesothelioma cases seems to stabilize 40 to 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos, every patient with the disease dies before the excess risk disappears.

Keep in mind that if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to get regular check-ups. Furthermore, if your exposure is due to the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to compensatory damages. For more information, contact our award-winning mesothelioma law firm today for a free case consultation.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24842786
  2. http://thorax.bmj.com/content/early/2014/05/19/thoraxjnl-2013-204161.abstract

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